Sunday, November 08, 2009

Bonerama in Gretna!

Friday night we were treated to yet another free concert as part of our Back to the River Fall Concert series. And what a treat it was! Bonerama played a full set at the Mississippi River levee in Gretna where Huey P. Long Avenue meets the ferry station.

The river is unusually high for this time of year, so the stage was moved from the amphitheater inside the levee itself to a few feet outside the levee. The slight change in venue did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of the huge crowd, nor did it compromise in any way the genius and musicality of this New Orleans institution.

Bonerama is a jazz/funk/brass/blues/rock ensemble consisting of a guitarist, bass player, keyboardist, drummer, and three singers/trombone players. Yes, three trombonists - hence the name. And man, are these guys good. They're scary good.

You might think such a line-up would come off gimmicky or trite. No way. They are polished musicians who know how to perform and squeeze every decibel of energy and joy from their horns.

I had seen them perform a couple times before at the Gretna Heritage Festival, and was blown away (pun intended). I'm especially fond of their rendition of Whipping Post - which they reprised for us Friday night. But the pinnacle of the evening was when they closed the show with their version of Led Zeppelin's When The Levee Breaks. The above video of a performance at another venue doesn't do the song justice. For a mere $9.95 you can order their latest CD with Levee on it, or download the album here for $4.95.

Levee is the perfect Bonerama song. It has bluesy vocals, tight harmonies, extended musical intricacies, and a section in which the three horns play in uncanny unison (beginning around 8:45 on the above video). Even Leo, who normally can take it or leave it, sat perched on my shoulders mesmerized. After the band finished playing When the Levee Breaks, Leo opined: "That was awesome. I likeded it!"

Of course, brass music, the blues, and songs about levees breaking are quintessentially New Orleans. It is an especially poignant number when performed on the river in plain view of the Superdome, the Crescent City Connection, the ferry running over to the French Quarter, and the skyline of the City. People of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and walks of life danced, sang, and enjoyed food and, er, beverages together. Children played tag, threw balls, and rolled down the hill.

There is a good number of Bonerama videos on YouTube. You can see them perform such diverse songs as: Helter Skelter, Tchfunkta, The Star Spangled Banner (from Super Bowl 2008), Bap Bap, War Pigs, I'm Walkin', as well as a video of a Letterman appearance. And here is a recent article about them in the Times-Picayune.

And of course, all their albums are for sale here. And no, Father H. Does not get a penny. I just think these guys rock, and I want to share the joy.

I really came to appreciate the remarkable flexibility and sound of the trombone while at the seminary, as the bones were often played with the organ at chapel services and in accompaniment with our Kantorei choir. In fact, I sang in Kantorei with a classmate, a friend, a countryman of my wife and son, and now a pastor in Michigan who opted against a professional musical career and instead answered the call to serve in the parish ministry: the Reverend Jon Bakker. Jon showed up at my ordination at Zion Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne with his trombone in hand and accompanied Michael Hollman on the organ. It was a great ordination gift and a testimony to the Lord's gift of music and musicians.

1 comment:

Pastor Bakker said...

What an amazing band! I'd heard Tchfunkta by others, but I really liked these guys (obviously, I'm instrumentally biased...:-) ).

And thank you for the very kind compliment! Your ordination was a great day - the greatest highlight was receiving the Lord's Body and Blood from your hand for the forgiveness of my sins.

The fellowship surrounding that day was wonderful too, meeting the rest of your wife's family from Canada and talking about the correct pronunciation of this and that Dutch word (Gouda!) with your father-in-law at Olive Garden, I believe. It was a great day and it was an honor to take part in it!

I can't believe that it's more than five years already since your ordination. Time really flies. Who would have imagined that we'd all be where we are today? I hadn't yet met my wife, and here we are today, happily married now two and half years and living in Michigan, and serving a great congregation and campus ministry. You're serving a wonderful parish in Gretna - only the Lord could take such good care of us!

The college students and I will be going down to Camp Restore in the 'Big Easy' again this year for our service trip, but will not, unfortunately, be there for any Sunday mornings. We'll be in town the evening of Jan 3 through the morning of Jan 8. I hope I can get to see the Beans while I'm there! :-)